Morning Report: Park and Rec Services Suffer from Lack of Workers
San Diego’s parks and recreation department is grappling with hundreds of vacancies that are complicating efforts to ramp up pool and rec center offerings and to address maintenance issues in city parks.
Lisa Halverstadt reports that almost half of city pool guard positions were unfilled as of a month ago and the city had had a 44 percent vacancy rate for hourly recreation center positions. Meanwhile, the city was short nearly three dozen grounds maintenance workers responsible for upkeep in parks and had an overall 14 percent vacancy rate for full-time department employees.
Halverstadt found that vacancies also hitting businesses and other governments have left the city with dramatically reduced pool hours, a 45 percent drop in recreation center programs compared with pre-COVID offerings and seemingly more lingering maintenance needs in parks.
Andy Field, the city’s parks and recreation director, told us that the city is “desperate” for applicants to hire to help the city deliver the hours and services residents expect. He noted that the city is working hard to recruit new employees, including at a virtual event next week.
Longstanding issues are likely complicating the city’s efforts to hire and retain parks employees. One union leader told Halverstadt that other cities are paying more for the same work and that more pay raises are needed to help workers make ends meet. And an advocate who leads the San Diego Parks Foundation said she’s convinced the city needs more funding for both park needs and personnel.
Some (Possible) City Climate Action
MacKenzie Elmer noted in a recent edition of the Environment Report that the city is still investing in fossil fuel companies despite a March 2020 vote to align its investment policy with the “climate emergency” it faces. Mayor Todd Gloria, who is attending the COP26 global climate conference, announced Tuesday he wants the city to update its investment policy and divest its fossil fuel investments by the end of the year in keeping with state and local climate goals.
“In order for San Diego to be a global leader on climate, our actions must match our words,” Gloria wrote in a press release. “Ensuring that our investments as a city are consistent with our climate goals will help our city to thrive for generations to come.”
Speaking of climate goals… The Union-Tribune wrote about the city’s new 536-page Climate Resilient SD plan, which includes 86 proposals and strategies to help the city prepare for the effects of climate change. The new plan differs from the city’s Climate Action Plan, which focuses on how to combat climate change.
The new plan follows SB 379, a state law mandating that all cities in the state adopt climate resiliency plans by Jan. 1.
Redistricting Commission to Consider Different Maps
The San Diego Redistricting Commission decided to consider two additional maps to the preliminary draft map they had previously voted on at a meeting Tuesday.
The meeting was a continuation of a meeting last week, where after more than 120 speakers gave public testimony, the commissioners decided to not move forward with the map they had previously chosen as a preliminary draft map, which left UCSD in District 1.
The Commission will have a special meeting on Saturday, Nov. 13, to evaluate a map drawn by the chair, which was the map commissioners voted on last week, another map drawn by a coalition of inland community organizations that moved UCSD into District 6 and a third map that was drawn by Clairemont residents.
It’s getting down to the wire on finalizing new political maps throughout the region.
The County’s Independent Redistricting Commission will also have a hearing on its draft maps Saturday.
City Mourns San Diegans Committed to Civic Causes
Three San Diegans who devoted themselves to civic issues passed away recently.
For years, Martha Welch has spoken at San Diego City Council meetings, passionately weighing in on an untold number of policy proposals and issues. On Tuesday, City Councilmembers mourned the recent loss of Welch and her near-constant presence at City Council and committee hearings with a formal adjournment in memory. City Councilmembers Chris Cate and Vivian Moreno fondly remembered Welch, noting that City Council meetings won’t be the same without her voice. They’re right. Rest in peace, Martha Welch.
Greg Block, a former mayor’s office spokesman who previously worked at San Diego State University and pushed for the Liberty Station redevelopment among other assignments, passed away Saturday after a battle with multiple myeloma. He was honored at Tuesday’s City Council meeting with an adjournment in memory and heartfelt comments from multiple City Councilmembers about his commitment to working on challenging issues such as homelessness and his devotion to his family and friends.
And Jim Dawe, a prolific land-use attorney who was instrumental in the construction of the new Central Library downtown, died Oct. 21. He pursued many major projects in San Diego both professionally and as a volunteer but none more intensely than his advocacy for libraries. State Sen. President Toni Atkins referred to Dawe by a nickname many gave him: Mr. Library.
In Other News
- County supervisors will hold a rare special meeting Wednesday to consider public comment policy changes to help avoid future scenarios that played out last week when a commenter directed a racial slur at the county’s public health officer and made inappropriate comments about multiple county supervisors. NBC 7 San Diego detailed the proposals on the table here.
- City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office last week sued scooter companies to try to enforce a requirement of the city’s operating agreements with firms that the city be held harmless in lawsuits over dockless scooter issues, The Union-Tribune reports.
- A planned Tuesday night Chula Vista City Council vote on proposed vacation rental regulations that Fox 5 San Diego detailed here was postponed. Mayor Mary Casillas-Salas announced at the meeting that the council didn’t have a quorum to consider the rules.
- The Chula Vista City Council did vote to buy 66 sleeping cabins to temporarily house homeless residents on Tuesday night. City officials pitched a new shelter plan after deciding against using a sprung structure provided free of charge by a foundation.
- The Reader reports that a 15-acre plot in National City known as the “jungle” that’s long been a hub for homeless camps and birds reliant on the wetland habitat will soon transform into a used car dealership.
- The San Diego City Council approved plans Tuesday to upgrade Mission Bay’s Fiesta Island. It will get new parks, playgrounds, volleyball courts, marsh areas and habitat preserves, reports the Union-Tribune, while the island’s dog park will remain mostly unchanged.
This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Maya Srikrishnan and Scott Lewis, and edited by Megan Wood.